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Buspirone and Alcohol

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What is Buspirone?

Buspirone hydrochloride is the generic name for Buspar. It is a prescription drug used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Buspirone is typically used as a second-line treatment when a patient cannot tolerate selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). 

Buspirone works by altering certain substances in the brain, such as dopamine receptors, creating a calming effect.

Buspirone has become more popular due to a lower risk of side effects than other anxiolytic treatments.

Unlike benzodiazepines and barbiturates, such as Xanax or Valium, buspirone does not carry a risk of physical dependence or withdrawal.

However, it takes four weeks to feel the effects. So it is not useful to treat acute anxiety symptoms in the same manner as benzodiazepines or barbiturates.

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Buspirone Statistics

8.1

Million

Estimated number of prescriptions for buspirone in the United States.

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$25.20

Average

Total drug cost of buspirone.

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$6.01

Average

Out-of-pocket cost of buspirone.

How Do You Take Buspirone?

Take buspirone as directed on the label or as recommended by your doctor. Do not use buspirone in larger quantities or for longer than suggested. Only use buspirone if it is prescribed to you by your physician; do not use someone else's prescription.

Some buspirone pills are scored so that you can break the tablet into two or three pieces for a smaller dose. Do not take a tablet if it has not been appropriately broken and the piece is too big or small.

You can decide whether you would like to take buspirone with or without food. But you must take it the same way each time.

Side Effects of Buspirone

There are many common side effects reported from taking buspirone. They are usually mild and do not require immediate medical attention.

The most common side effects include: 

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Excitability 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Restlessness
  • Drowsiness or tiredness
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Mild nasal congestion
  • Mild muscle pain

Other less common or rare side effects include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Clammy hands or feet
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Impaired concentration
  • Diarrhea
  • Moderate muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Excessive tiredness or weakness
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Anger outbursts
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Low-grade fever
  • Coordination issues
  • Depression
  • General weakness
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Uncontrollable body movements

Is Buspirone Addictive?

Buspirone has a non-addictive nature. This is one of the key characteristics that have made it so popular.

Buspirone has less toxicity and a lower potential for misuse than other anxiolytics. This makes it more ideal for long-term use.

Patients do not develop a tolerance to buspirone, making them less likely to develop an addiction. Buspirone alone does not create a high (even if injected). There have been no reports of a fatal overdose on buspirone by itself. 

However, there is still a small risk of addiction due to the buspirone's calming effects. This is true of all anti-anxiety medications, including ones with low toxicity and constant tolerance levels.

Even though overdoses are not fatal, you can still overdose on buspirone.

Symptoms of buspirone overdose include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Small pupils
  • Loss of consciousness. 

Can You Mix Buspirone and Alcohol?

It can be dangerous to mix alcohol and buspirone. Alcohol use should be avoided during treatment with buspirone.

Mixing Buspar and alcohol can increase both drugs' effects on your central nervous system (CNS).

The use of alcohol enhances buspirone's central nervous system effects. This leads to harmful drug interactions that can cause serious adverse effects or impairment.  

Side Effects and Risks of Mixing Buspirone with Alcohol

Buspirone alone can potentially lead to a long list of side effects. Mixing it with alcohol can worsen these side effects or cause new ones.

The most common side effects of combining these substances include:

  • Increased drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Severe headache
  • Severe fatigue
  • Vomiting 

Mixing buspirone and alcohol can also cause more serious side effects, such as: 

  • Slowed breathing 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgment

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction, including:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing and have access to professional medical monitoring. 

The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced. These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer.

Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). Partial hospitalization programs provide similar services to inpatient programs.

Services include medical care, behavioral therapy, and support groups, along with other customized therapies. 

However, in a PHP program, you return home to sleep. Some services provide food and transportation, but services vary by program.

PHPs accept new patients as well as people who have completed an inpatient program and still need intensive treatment.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient or partial hospitalization programs.

These programs organize your treatment session based on your schedule. The goal of outpatient treatment is to provide therapy, education, and support in a flexible environment.

They are best for people who have a high motivation to recover and cannot leave their responsibilities at home, work, or school. Outpatient programs are often part of aftercare programs once you complete an inpatient or PHP program.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

Sometimes medications may be used in alcohol addiction treatment.

Some medicines can help reduce the negative side effects of detoxification and withdrawal.

Others can help you reduce cravings and normalize body functions. Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone are the most common medications used to treat AUD. 

When combined with other evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) are open to anyone with a substance use disorder.

They are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober.  Support groups can be the first step towards recovery or part of a long-term aftercare plan.

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Updated on March 29, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Wilson TK, Tripp J. Buspirone. [Updated 2020 Sep 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan
  2. Rabatin, J., & Keltz, L. B. . Generalized anxiety and panic disorder. The Western journal of medicine, 176, 164–168
  3. Balster RL. Abuse potential of buspirone and related drugs. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1990 Jun;10(3 Suppl):31S-37S. doi: 10.1097/00004714-199006001-00007. PMID: 1973938
  4. United States Food and Drug Administration, BuSpar. FDA. 
  5. Buspirone Hydrochloride, Drug Usage Statistics, ClinCalc DrugStats Database, 2018
  6. Schuckit, M A. “Alcohol and drug interactions with antianxiety medications.” The American journal of medicine vol. 82,5A : 27-33. doi:10.1016/0002-934390200-2

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